Youth Offer Suggestions For Juvenile Justice

Posted by michael on Mar 01, 2015

(Memphis – Commercial Appeal) — Participants in a youth-led conference on juvenile justice Saturday at LeMoyne-Owen College wrote down solutions for conflict in schools on yellow post-it notes.

Among the suggestions was mental health support, counseling, therapy and peer mediation in schools.

One note contained a suggestion of a “peace pass” as “a way to exit a space when you feel like you are too angry to be there.”

“Suspending them is not helping it, it’s just making them more violent,” read another. “They should have a counseling class after school for them, like a 30-minute session.”

At the workshop focusing on peer-mediation — part of the event presented by Memphis United, BRIDGES and LeMoyne-Owen College — participants folded paper into sections and wrote down three things: where they come from, where they are and where they want to be.

“It’s about your hopes and your dreams,” said Gio López, training director at the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center.

Participants said they aimed to keep an open mind, encourage someone to be better today than they were yesterday and learn something from the program to teach siblings.

“I’m interested in youth making a change for themselves,” said 18-year-old Anita Norman, of Arlington High School.

The group seated around desks inside a classroom upstairs at the college was asked what happens when there is conflict at school.

They gave various answers of: “Suspension.” “People go to jail at my school.” “Security guards.” “Pepper spraying.” “People get hurt.”

They spoke of some students facing harsh home conditions outside of school, and social media was cited as a common source of conflict among youth.

“School could be one of the safest environments for them,” said Abas Pauti, 17, of Cordova High School.

After suspensions, students come back and “they think the school hates them,” Pauti said. “They come back more in the mind set of ‘I’m already a failure.'”

Michal Mckay, of Central High School, said missing class time, tests and projects due to disciplinary actions makes catching up difficult.

Instead of removing students from school, the 16-year-old suggested conflict should be resolved at a time outside of scheduled classes.

“I think suspension is really contradictory to what school should be about,” Mckay said. “If the purpose of school is education and to learn, then taking students out of class is the exact opposite of what school should be about.

“I think that having kids get so behind in school is really hurting their education, really hurting their chances of graduating.”